(Hampton County; 2000 pop. 2,837). The town of Hampton came into being with the formation of Hampton County in 1878 and is located near the center of the county. On October 12, 1878, Governor Wade Hampton laid the cornerstone for the courthouse, a two-story brick structure styled after the courthouses of Robert Mills. In 1925 the building was remodeled and enlarged, with the double curved stair leading to the second floor portico removed. The first post office was established in 1872 at a nearby railroad stop called Hoover’s, which was about a mile away from the courthouse. When the office moved nearer to the courthouse, it was renamed Hampton Court House, then later shortened to Hampton. The town was chartered on December 23, 1879.
A newspaper, the Hampton County Guardian, was founded in 1879 by Miles B. McSweeney, who later served as governor of South Carolina. The earliest churches in Hampton were Hoover’s Methodist Episcopal, South (later Hampton United Methodist); Bethlehem Baptist; a Baptist Church at Hoover’s that moved nearer “town” and became First Baptist; and Huspah Baptist, which moved into the vacated church at Hoover’s. A school for African American children was held at Huspah. In 1896 the site was the forerunner location of what became Voorhees College. A school for white children was built about 1878 near the courthouse.
By the early 1920s Hampton was well laid out with a broad, tree-lined main street, Lee Avenue, spanning the three blocks from the courthouse to the Charleston & Western Carolina railroad depot. The town of eight hundred residents boasted twenty businesses, two hotels, an automobile and tractor agency, two physicians, two banks, and a two-story brick school for white children. Hampton Colored School was built in the late 1920s. In 1931 portions of S.C. Highway 28 in the county were paved, which connected Hampton with Orangeburg and points north, as well as to what became U.S. Highway 17. In 1939 the first Hampton County Watermelon Festival was held. It is the oldest continuous festival in South Carolina.
Near Hoover’s in 1933, the American Legion built a “Hut,” while the National Guard built an armory there in the early 1940s. Hoover’s also became home to Hampton’s first modern industry, Plywoods-Plastics, and to schools, housing developments, and the West End business district. In 1955 Westinghouse relocated a Pennsylvania factory to the Plywoods-Plastics site, which at its peak employed 1,100 workers. International Paper bought the facility in 1995.
In the latter twentieth century, Hampton continued to advance toward the economic and social mainstream. The population increased and Hampton became an increasingly prosperous commercial and industrial center. A labor union emerged at Westinghouse in the 1950s. First the black, then the white high schools of Brunson, Hampton, and Varnville consolidated. Later all district schools were integrated. Parks, playgrounds, baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, and a soccer complex provided recreation. A 1940s art deco movie house became a performing arts theater, while an 1892 bank was transformed into the Hampton Museum and Visitors’ Center. A town hall, police department, fire department, and public works facility were built, yet the town last raised taxes in 1973.
Hampton County Historical Society. Both Sides of the Swamp: Hampton County. Rev. ed. Hampton, S.C.: Hampton County Historical Society, 1997.